In his new movie “Casa de Mi Padre,” opening Friday, Will Ferrell plays a rancher who, in some ways, is similar to another popular character he once portrayed.
“Armando kind of has an earnest, lovable quality. He’s like a Mexican version of Buddy the elf,” says Ferrell, who, in just 15 minutes in a recent interview in The City, exudes the same attributes in person. (He also has breathtaking blue eyes that are more piercing in real life than on the big screen.)
Admittedly, the films are quite different. For one thing, “Casa de Mi Padre (“House of My Father”), a wonderfully all-over-the-place spoof of telenovelas and Westerns, is in Spanish, with English subtitles.
Ferrell, who studied Spanish in school but by no means was fluent, apparently reached his goal of perfecting his accent and fooling natives with his authenticity.
“I’ve gotten high marks, and stopped people in their tracks,” he says. “This wasn’t going to be a joke about an American actor trying to speak Spanish.”
But, as in any movie by Ferrell — and fellow former “Saturday Night Live” cohorts Matt Piedmont (director) and Andrew Steele (screenplay) — there are plentiful jokes.
He describes the hilarious sex scene: “Lots of butts, way too many butts,” maintaining that Steele’s script told him exactly what to do.
Talking about what’s funny, he says sometimes “we just get lucky.” More often, though, it’s about shooting for the highest common denominator and trusting that it will work: “At ‘SNL,’ you put your faith in the audience,” which, he says, is smart.
While he and his co-filmmakers’ philosophy might be summed up as, “Let’s try to make the smart dumb comedy,” he clarifies that they certainly aren’t above the strategically placed gross-out joke, adding, “But you better make sure it’s a surprise.”
One surprise in “Casa de Mi Padre” is that it takes on a semi-serious theme, drug trafficking, but with no political correctness. American characters are the brunt of jokes, too.
“We wanted to show that it’s a two-way street,” Ferrell says, “it’s not just Mexico.”
Given those slightly unorthodox themes — and the fact that it’s in Spanish — Ferrell isn’t sure what the reaction to the film will be, saying that it might take as many as five years to gauge it.
For the shorter term, he’s looking forward to a few more immediate events: his son’s piano recital and playing in Soccer Aid 2012 on the “rest of the world” team vs. England; the big charity event benefits UNICEF.
If You Go
Starring Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Genesis Rodriguez
Written by Andrew Steele
Directed by Matt Piedmont
Running time 1 hour 24 minutes